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At age 110, Victoria woman celebrates; friends say laughter is the best medicine

By ErinPradia
Feb. 18, 2012 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 18, 2012 at 8:19 p.m.

Tamer Lee Brooks Owens wipes away tears as her niece, May Powell, 70, puts on her Happy Birthday crown. Owens said so much has happened since she was born, Feb. 15, 1902, it is hard to remember it all.

For the record

The oldest person whoever lived in Texas:

Margaret Skeete,who lived to 114 and 192 days. She died in 1999.

The oldest living person in Texas:

Naomi Conner,

112, of McGregor

Source: The Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group

Laughter, the Lord, the little things - and not having a husband - have kept Tamer Lee Brooks Owens alive and well for 110 years, said her friends and family.

They were celebrating her "century and a decade" birthday at a party in her honor Saturday.

Owens also drank a concoction of honey, vinegar and garlic daily for good health, but the Victoria woman said she doesn't know the secret to her longevity.

"I don't know what has kept me living so long," Owens said. "I guess the Lord intended for me to stay here this long."

Her great niece Jernice Lara, of Victoria, said Owens was an example of a virtuous Proverbs 31 woman, but also an example of an Ephesians 6 child, honoring her parents and her elders so her days would be long on Earth.

As the eighth born in a family of 12 children, Owens celebrated her birthday with extended family and friends in the fellowship hall of Palestine Baptist Church.

The guests shared a fried chicken dinner and a big white sheet cake decorated with red and green flowers.

Her great nephew Joseph Powell, 53, of Crosby, said he enjoys visiting his great aunt and looking at the framed letters she has from the presidents of the United States commemorating each birthday she had since she turned 100.

Owens said so much has happened since she was born, Feb. 15, 1902 - it is hard to remember it all.

While she does recall the sinking of the Titanic and World War II, she said she didn't think it was important to dwell on bad events.

"People think when things happen these days it is a big deal to keep them in mind," Owens said. "People didn't think it was so important to remember back then."

Technology has also dramatically changed since 1902.

"It is wonderful you can take a telephone now and talk all over the world," Owens said.

Owens said she did not receive much schooling. When she was growing up attending a one-room schoolhouse in the country, many of the teachers had not even finished college.

But Owens enjoyed remaining busy. Before her eyesight began to fail, Owens enjoyed reading and sewing.

"I sewed clothes, quilts, embroidered ..." Owens said.

"I just loved to do needlework and always stay busy."

Members of the Crossroads community also remember Owens' culinary skills - especially her peach cobbler.

Owens said it is harder to get around these days so she mostly sits around and talks to people who come to visit such as her best friends Betty McMurray, Dorothy Harris and Kathryn Combs, all of Victoria.

"Are you still sassy?" said Betty McMurray, 84, of Victoria, as she greeted Owens at the start of the party.

"I've known Tamer Lee all my life, and she always says what she thinks and doesn't hold nothing back," McMurray said.

Owens laughed as family members and friends shared memories they made with her during her life, but especially during the past year.

When Dorothy Harris went to visit her at Twin Pines Nursing and Rehabilitation Center a few weeks ago, she was coaxing Owens to eat her lunch.

"It's really good, you should eat it," Harris said as she attempted to encourage Owens.

"If it's so good, why don't you eat it?" Owens replied.

"I made the mistake of telling her, 'I don't like sauerkraut,'" Harris said. "'I don't either,' was her response."

"She and my aunt were partners in crime," remembered Harris. "They were inseparable friends."

Harris said her aunt and Owens would walk everywhere, from church to work - and she was hard to keep up with.

Harris said most adults were referred to as "Mr." or "Mrs." and then their last name, but not Owens.

"She was always just Tamer Lee to all of us," Harris said.

Even at 110, Owens remains sharp.

Kathryn Combs, "old as black pepper," of Victoria, lived two doors down from Owens for as long as she can remember. Combs traveled with her husband as he served in the military, but moved back down the street from Owens in the 1960s.

As Owens' eyesight began to fail she couldn't look up Combs' number in the phone book so she memorized it and still calls her from time to time to hear the latest news.

Owens' family and friends believe she remains a living tribute to the saying, "Laughter is the best medicine."

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